First TPA Community Council

We had our first Transition Palo Alto Community Council at Palo Alto Cafe this Tuesday.  Attendance was modest, but it is bound to grow as people discover the opportunity to get more involved with setting priorities, creating events and participating in the operations of Transition Palo Alto.


We made a good (re-)start on the idea of a Transition Palo Alto Resource Map.  We realized that there are many issues to be discussed before we have a map, including at least:
  • What makes a place a Transition Resource?  Criteria need to be grounded in Transition values.
  • What area will we cover?  It must be broad enough to be accessible to our members, but narrow enough to cover responsibly with limited volunteer power?.
  • Should we have grades?  Not all resources will have all Transition values, but some which have a good representation of values should be noted anyway.
  • Maintenance of the map was not discussed but will have to be.  New businesses appear, while old ones disappear, and some may cease to follow Transition values while remaining in business.
We spent some times considering Grocery Stores as our first category of businesses to be included on the Map.  We do expect that we will want to discuss this for a few months, at the level of the map and criteria, and at the level of the grocery store before we produce our first map.  This is a complex process that demands serious thought and research.


We also came up with a good plan for the Palo Alto Library’s re:Maker Fair, which will take place on June 23.  We will follow up on March’s Shop Your Fridge Potluck and the interest in decreasing food waste and show people what to do with odd-bits and leftovers.  At the least, we will talk about saving craps, peels and tops for veggie stock, either made immediately in small amounts, or later with bits saved in the freezer in bigger batches.  There are lots of little tips and techniques to include in such a demo.  We would also like to run the Dan Barber video about squash bits on a laptop.  A team will form to put together a detailed presentation/table over time.  Reach out to us if you are interested in participating.


Make sure to join us in May.  Look for an announcement with time, place and other details.

A Letter from Cornwall

Last month, Transition Palo Alto received the most wonderful letter from Christine Sefton, a member of the Eden Project Communities Team in Cornwall, UK.  She wanted to let us know about their Share Fairs, and how similar they are to our own Share Faires.  We have responded, of course, and are beginning what should be a great conversation around the simultaneous development of great ideas across a vast ocean.  We thought we would share Christine’s letter with you – with her blessing – for your own inspiration:


My colleague sent me a link to your November 2017 Share Faire event because she knew I’d be massively interested…which I am.  It seems we have come to the same conclusion and created the same community project.

I am based in Cornwall, UK at the Eden Project and am part of the Eden Project Communities Team. For the last 18 months I’ve been developing Share Fairs (which sound very similar, if not exactly the same as, your own). So far there have been piloted 25 Share Fair events across England and Northern Island, engaging approximately 2,000 people and four of our pilot Share Fairs are set to continue into 2018. Some of these events have been stand-alone, others have been part of bigger carnivals or festivals. We’ve held Share Fairs in town centres, village greens and council parks. Many have been big community events with 100s attending, others have been more intimate – all have been positive.

We describe Share Fairs as social events a bit like an old-fashioned market or village fete but instead of buying and selling, people swap and share in a pop-up, money-free zone. Alongside sharing and swapping items such as clothes and books, people also share skills, stories, ideas, information and above all company. Instead of making financial capital, a Share Fair is about building community and creating social capital.

A Share Fair is also a process of empowerment. For community spirit to thrive, communities need to come together and enjoy regular, positive, shared experiences. Equally important, is the collaborative effort that goes into creating and developing these shared experiences. So Share Fairs are more than just the event on the day – they are the opportunity for communities to work collaboratively all year round, to be the vehicle by which new community groups are formed, individuals gain confidence and skills, and service providers co-ordinate. Share Fair events provide the focus, but the collaborative effort that goes into developing the event, is why Share Fairs have the potential to create enduring positive change and the opportunity for communities to tell new and positive stories about themselves.

Our facebook page is mksharefair/ and our twitter account is @SHAREeFAIR and here are some films we made: v=mjZeoG2ENHo& v=E4AKzFlzIQs&


What I shall be doing next is gathering evidence about Share Fairs and exploring how to gain the necessary funding to support more communities to start Share Fairs.


I’m really interested in your Share Faire story and hope you can let me know all about your project and ambitions.

All the very best.


Transitioners at EcoFarm 2018

Razia Mianoor

I would like to share my recent EcoFarm attendance at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA.

This was my first conference as a beginner farmer and landowner of 20 acres of organic land, located in Gilroy.  I attended workshops that were designed to help understand regulation, soil, and management of bee hives on farms. I was very impressed by the speakers and the workshop leaders to share their knowledge and answer questions and provide guidance in making selections.  The marketplace was informative with vendors displaying their products and showing new products that are available to improve farming methods.

Overall, the planning committee put in a lot of effort selecting a good variety of speakers and organizing the workshops.  The conference grounds are very easily accessible and comfortable, the staff was friendly and helpful.  I would recommend the EcoFarm conference to new members like myself to learn and share the experience.


Peter Ruddock

This January I attended my eighth EcoFarm Conference.  When I first attended in 2011, I wondered how welcome a food advocate would be at a farmer conference.  By 2014, I had joined the conference planning committee, one of a number of advocates with different points of view who was working to support the food system and, in particular, ecological farming (farming that is sustainable, regenerative, organic and more).  By 2016, I was helping co-found EcoFarm’s Diversity Advisory Group, whose mission is to increase the diversity of the conference to more closely match the demographic make-up of California.  We want to include people of all backgrounds and experiences, and to make everyone feel that they are a welcome, integral and important part of the conference, an effort which in its first to years has had some gratifying initial success.  So, yes, I felt welcome – and I guess that I am all in at this point.

Each year sees more programming that would be of interest to Transition members.  From urban agriculture to school gardens to permaculture, programming is growing to include more than production farmers, though production farming will always be the core of EcoFarm.  Transition Palo Alto members are increasingly paying attention – one friend spent much of January talking himself into going, and by the last day of the conference he was telling me what he is going to do differently next year.  It is obviously a way to learn.  But it is also a way to give back, a way to help build the resilient, local food system that is a key component to Transition’s vision for the future.

Curious?  Consider attending in 2019.  Check out the conference web-site.  If a three-day commitment is too much for you, come for a single day.  Do plan to eat there – the food, sourced from local farms like Full Belly Farm, is very good.  Asilomar is a stunningly beautiful place to confer.  Fun is had by all – music, films and more supplement the conference sessions.  And the people who attend are folks that you will want to meet.  See you at EcoFarm next year!

Preparing the Halloween Costume Swap and Fall Share Faire

The Transition Palo Alto Sharing Committee is working on the Halloween Costume Swap and Fall Share Faire.  You should join one of these – there as much fun as the Share Faires themselves!

Do Save the Date:  October 8, from 1-3 PM, in rooms A-6 and A-7 at Cubberley Community Center.  Stay tuned for details.  We’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Sharing the Garden: Quality over Quantity

Five people met under an oak tree in the beautiful Common Ground Garden on a perfect summer Northern California afternoon.


Caryn brought concord grapes.  They came with a story:  she has to watch for ripeness and pick them the day before they reach perfection.  Otherwise, a mother raccoon and her babies have a feast – and make a mess.  We could see why the raccoons would be excited – the grapes were perfect.

Ellen brought jujubes, which came with a story too.  Ellen was visiting LA, where she walked around the neighborhood for a little relaxation.  She encountered a jujube tree, overloaded with fruit.  She picked one that was hanging over the sidewalk and found it delicious.  She wanted more, but wanted to talk to the homeowner first.  Passing by the next day, she saw the homeowner in the yard, worrying over the downed jujube tree, which had fallen overnight!  She stopped to chat, and of course got permission to harvest as many as she wanted.


Herb showed us the unpainted signs for the upcoming Phoenix Garden workday on August 19.  The signs are already works of art.  When volunteers have painted them they will become masterpieces.


Peter had Christmas Lima Beans, leftover from his trip to Slow Food Nations in Denver.  He encouraged the others to keep them until spring, then plant them widely.  The beans are on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, which raises awareness for rare and heirloom varieties.  Let’s make this one a little bit less rare.


Which got William reflecting on beans,and peas and other legumes.  After which he finally wondered if any of them were perennials, something about which he had a vague memory.  None of us knew, not that it mattered.


If you know, or want to know, about perennial beans join us for the next Garden Share.  William has promised to look up perennial beans for us – he’ll Share what he learns when next we convene under the oak in the Garden.  See you then.





It was a Super Sweet Summer Share Faire

On Saturday, Transition Palo Alto held its first ever Share Faire at Common Ground Garden and what a great place it was to have a Share Faire!  With plenty of space to spread out, that’s just what we did around the beautiful garden space.

Our neighbors shared lots of skills.  Diane Ruddle taught us how to make white kimchi.  Hillie Salo showed us how to save tomato seeds.  William Mutch demonstrated the fine art of sharpening blades.  Wendy Breu showed us how to make fine crafts out of paper.  Hamsa Ramajayan had a gaggle of kids to show how to make fairy gardens.  And our host, Paul Higgins, demonstrated watering techniques AND showed us how to thresh, winnow and mill – using a bicycle-powered mill assembled by the girl scouts! – wheat grown in the garden.

There were, of course, lots of things to share:  books, clothes, household goods, garden goods and produce and much more.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped set-up, operate and clean-up the Share Faire.  We can’t do this without a community.

We’ll look forward to returning to the wonderful Common Ground Garden for another Share Faire soon.



Local Garden Share at Full Circle Farm – A Retrospective

Change happens.  In the nearly 7 years since the first Local Garden Share kicked off in Palo Alto, Garden Shares have come and gone, grown and shrunk, and changed times and locations.  They spawned Transition Palo Alto’s Share Faire, which has had its share of change over the years.  We are glad to say that the concept of Sharing remains strong in Palo Alto and the South Bay.

The Local Garden Share at Full Circle Farm, under the guidance of long-time Transitionista Victoria Armigo, has been a particularly stable presence in Sunnyvale.  Nearly every Fourth Sunday morning since 2011, Victoria and a group of gardeners have met at the small farmstand in the front of Full Circle Farm to share the produce of their gardens, nearly anything related to food, and themselves – they created community.  Alas, that will be coming to an end:  the last Local Garden Share at Full Circle Farm will take place on July 23 at 11:00 AM.

This bit of sad news did not happen due to lack of interest.  As you may have heard, Full Circle Farm will be closing at the end of July.  The Santa Clara Unified School District has chosen not to renew its contract with the farm, which will be leaving the property as soon as Summer Camp winds up in early August.  (SCUSD has indicated that they will manage the property as some kind of publicly-accessible urban agriculture.)

The Garden Sharers of Sunnyvale are still contemplating the future of Local Garden Shares in their area.  They are thinking of rotating the Share from home to home.  It is also possible that the Share will find a new permanent home somewhere in the neighborhood.  Stay tuned to Transition Palo Alto for developments on this.  And if you’d like to help, or simply want to visit Full Circle Farm one last time, please come on out to the Farm at 11:00 AM on July 23 – bring the produce of your garden, bring anything related to food or gardening, but most importantly bring yourself and build community.

There Oughta Be a Law – II

On Jan 13, 8 intrepid people met at Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View for a Policy Cafe, to consider the 6 policies (see this earlier post) which Transitioners had proposed to submit to Senator Jerry Hill’s There Oughta Be a Law contest in the name of Transition Palo Alto.  After the ingestion of many beverages and some serious discussion, it was decided to submit the proposal submitted by Paul Higgins, which proposes regulating homeless encampments in a manner that gives people who are homeless more of a chance at stability and recovery.  After applying some spit and polish, the following proposal was e-mailed to Senator Hill’s office.  (As of this writing, Feb 7, we have not heard back about the proposal.  Senators have until Feb 17 to submit bills for consideration.)


Name: Paul Higgins and Peter Ruddock for Transition Palo Alto

Transition Palo Alto is a citizens’ group dedicated to creating a strong local economy and a resilient community as a strategy to counter climate change and create a better life for all in Palo Alto and the surrounding area.

Providing Stability for the Homeless Community Act


There oughta be a law: regulating homeless encampments. It is obvious that shelters and indoor living are not an immediate solution for every homeless person, given the diversity of mental illnesses, the lack of housing, and the safety issues with many shelters. There seems to be a ‘war on the homeless’ currently. Many recent laws criminalize homelessness, and every time an encampment springs up, police wait until it is well established and then tear it all down and clear it out- but to what end? Where are these people supposed to go? Usually the tenants simply move to another site. This game of whack-a-mole that cities seem to be playing with homeless encampments makes it much harder for mental health professionals and other homeless outreach/advocate professionals to treat and serve the homeless community. Outreach programs need stability to work and a managed encampment would provide that.

Certainly it is understandable that jurisdictions are uncomfortable with these encampments, as they generate citizen complaints and can become safety hazards.  But removal is, at best, a temporary solution, as the encampments will spring up again in some other location.  For the problem as a whole, forcing people to move every few months from illegal camp to illegal camp is counter-productive, making the process of (re)gaining a home virtually impossible for most.  We need to give people some stability if they are to have a chance at success.  Jurisdictions need to be empowered to create that stability.

WHAT’S YOUR SOLUTION? Please attach proposed language, if any. Be as detailed as possible, attaching extra sheets if needed.

We should enact a law that legalizes a regulated and managed homeless encampment. This could use vacant/blighted parcels, parks land, or other city or county land, and would include designated camping spots that service users would register for, and be monitored by community police or liaisons. This is what would make the living environment safer than a shelter (which often have insufficient oversight). The involvement of existing local organizations would be sought. Facilities such as trash cans, porta-potties, potable water fountains, showers, and sheet-mulched areas for camping would also be included (ecologically-sound options would be encouraged, such as composting and bioswales to process waste and grey-water, and a garden for service users to grow food). The site would also include mail boxes for service users and act as a drop off point for food bank bags. The area could be re-mulched periodically to maintain sanitary conditions.

The type of housing allowed would be diverse, as long as it was temporary.

While a sunset clause for a planned site is possible, a stipulation that all registered tenants be moved to a new location with equal/greater space/amenities or permanent housing.

This plan could fall under the purview of parks/public works/sheriff/health system, or more sensibly be a combined effort with some capacity/staff time given by each department. As mentioned local organizations would be sought to provide management and support.

A small fee could be charged to service users to offset management costs for the site. This could be 5-10% of income if the service user is on social security, or a few dollars in cash per day if not. In Berkeley, the city often charges a percentage of service users’ income to pay for an apartment.

The plan could function in multiple ways: it could outline a way that a plot can be used in a given way (letting organizations/depts come together organically to start a project); OR the plan could designate that a site(s) of given size be built and specify a budget, staff time from different departments, and make it happen; OR the plan could it take an existing encampment and get it ‘up to code’.

This law is not a solution to end homelessness in our communities. It is a temporary measure to allow people who are already sleeping on our streets somewhere safer to go than a park bench or alleyway. Rather than using the streets and parks for their human needs, this would provide a safer, more hygienic way to take care of those needs. Finally, it provides dignity and a sense of self determination for people who are living on the streets by allowing them to use what ever type of housing or non-housing they wish- in a designated, managed space.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Please include any studies, reports, newspaper articles, personal experience, or anecdotal evidence relating to your proposal.

List of articles/resources (California):

Thesis on Community Development as Solution to Homelessness:

San Jose city plans to use ‘jungle clean-up’ as model for dealing with homeless encampments:

General information about homeless encampments:

Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Draft:

SF in-depth look at policies and ‘Division St. Encampment’:

Fact sheets:

Other States:

Nashville, Tennesee exploratory meetings on the issue:

Washington DC homeless criminalization:

ARE YOU AWARE OF SIMILAR LEGISLATION PREVIOUSLY INTRODUCED IN CALIFORNIA OR IN OTHER STATES? If so, please include the author, bill number, and outcome of the legislation:

List of related laws (California):

Gilroy legalized encampment proposal:

Nevada County legalized encampment:

Other States:

Seattle draft legislation:

Des Moines, Washington draft legislation:

Portland encampment legalization law:


Each encampment would cost government, whether local, county or state, money, which would likely come from the general tax fund.

Some of this money would be offset by fees charged to users, as outlined in the proposal. Analysis will show that concomitant savings will occur in all jurisdictions from decreased need for policing, decreased blight on land and fewer calls from residents. The net effect on all jurisdictions should be positive, but the financial impact will be felt differently by each jurisdiction.

(AB 551, which gives tax incentives for turning vacant, often blighted, urban land into urban farms and gardens provides an interesting analogy.  It costs the counties (where it is enacted) property taxes for those properties which enroll in the program.  Administrative expenses are mostly offset by application fees, but may also cost the counties some money.  Police will see a big savings by not having to patrol the formerly blighted properties, although some of the problems may simply move elsewhere.  However, the police savings will not necessarily go into the same pot that the property taxes came out of – if financial management is not made then school districts, dependent upon property taxes, will often suffer.  The small enrollment in AB 551 means that we have not seen any meaningful effects yet, although some advocates worry about the possibilities.)


Homeless Advocates, Mental Health Professionals, Social Workers, Food Banks, Churches, Police Departments


Cities / League of California Cities, Homeowners groups (neighbors, NIMBY), Police Departments

Sharing the Holidays

Transition Palo Alto’s last Share Faire of the year was a low-key affair, full of holiday cheer and spirit.

The Faire began with a Storytelling Circle, where everyone took there turn describing what the holiday season – no matter which holiday they were celebrating – meant to them.  We heard stories of travel and family and food – a lot of food.

And then the Faire ended with food.  Peter Ruddock taught us a seasonal recipe – cranberry-orange vinaigrette, an easy salad dressing made with winter produce.  (Peter omits the mustard and thinks it tastes just fine).


Photos courtesy of Herb Moore:



Getting Crafty in the Garden

On June 11, a group of people from Transition Palo Alto and the South Bay Permaculture Group met at Common Ground Garden to get crafty.  Half of the group sheet mulched a new section of the garden.  The other half made new signs, in anticipation of the upcoming Edible Garden Tour on July 23.  During a break, everyone got a great guided tour of the garden.  And after the work was complete, people shared a tasty, fresh, local potluck lunch together.  Look for more opportunities to work together in the garden, and in other places around Palo Alto too.


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